Euthanizing papal credibility

August 7, 2018 § 29 Comments

He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. – Jesus Christ, second Person of the Holy Trinity

Addressing the announced changes to the Catechism on the death penalty, changes categorically asserting its ‘inadmissibility[1],’ Joseph Shaw writes:

If [the Holy Father’s theological advisers] are not bound by past popes, there is no reason why future popes should be bound by this statement, and indeed the authority of Pope Francis over Catholics today is called into question.

[Compatibility with the teaching of previous popes, councils, etc] is not the natural reading of the text, but one might argue that since it is purporting to represent the teaching of the Church we must read it if humanly possible in accord with previous authoritative statements of that teaching. On the other hand, bishops and theologians supposedly friendly to Pope Francis are loudly saying that the natural reading is the correct one…

This is no accidental ambiguity: it is a design feature. In this case the mouse-hole of ambiguity conservative Catholics need to crawl through to maintain the continuity between the two editions of the Catechism is humiliatingly small. When they have crawled through it, moreover, they will be ignored.

Indeed.  We are all Jesuits now; and if we don’t unequivocally reject Jesuit excuse-mongering for usury, we ourselves and like-minded people are part of the problem.

Accepting the modernist usury-sodomy paradigm is a categorical, either/or proposition.  We are either for it, or against it.  Be against it.


[1] It takes a certain skill to effectively make ambiguous categorical assertions.  But that skill is required when the point is authoritative self-immolation of authority.

§ 29 Responses to Euthanizing papal credibility

  • LarryDickson says:

    Don’t lose too much sleep over this one. See

    https://zenit.org/articles/pope-francis-decides-to-update-church-catechism-to-assert-church-teaching-against-use-of-death-penalty/

    It is not categorical, but based on assumptions about modernity that are clearly temporal in nature (similar to what Pope John Paul II said). So it amounts to a church law ruling. And the Pope claims consistency with past papal rulings, so I believe we can take him at his word.

    Pope Francis, like Donald Trump, seems to like to stir up trouble by loudly using ill-defined words. I am not sure what the point of this is, but the Holy Spirit hasn’t doomed him yet, so I think we are allowed to interpret it in orthodox fashion.

    It does put Catholic voters in an interesting position. I do not think we are allowed to vote for the death penalty (in a referendum, for instance) while this ruling holds. It is no great loss, since the governing authority is functionally insane in most if not all places, including the USA.

  • Zippy says:

    That is the “mouse hole of ambiguity” that Joseph Shaw is talking about, right there.

  • But the change is perfectly clear. It appears to be clearly saying that the Church changed her teaching and the death penalty is inadmissable in all circumstances noe, and she used to just be wrong.

    The only people who know that this can’t be what it says are folks like you and me who ALREADY know that. But we’re not who it’s addressed to.

  • CJ says:

    As Catholics, are y’all required in docility to crawl through the mouse hole as long as it’s there?

    In Fr. Longenecker’s article defending the new catechism, he approvingly cites the development of doctrine regarding usury to demonstrate that the new catechism is fine.

  • My initial reaction was that this was Noonanism incarnate in the Catechism. What matters is not the actual content of moral doctrine, but the fundamental values that the Church has really been defending all along. With increased awareness of the Gospel values we can jettison the moral doctrine or replace it with ambiguities.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Please, malcomthecynic and all, read the link I gave to get the real details of what the Pope said, which is NOT “she used to be just wrong.”

    Remember slavery? That became never-allowed when it used to be OK even in a whole epistle (to Philemon). You guys are punching away at a non-problem.

    Usury is different. It seemed to change from not-allowed to allowed, which is not OK. It didn’t, of course, but the Church became cowardly in preaching this truth. That cowardice is at the root of most of today’s problems.

    The Pope’s rhetoric is also something that can be criticized. He seems to like to use rhetorical approaches that stimulate a loss of faith.

  • Zippy says:

    semioticanimal:

    What matters is not the actual content of moral doctrine, but the fundamental values that the Church has really been defending all along.

    Fundamental values which require us to stand up in front of the modern secular progressive world, affirming it in its okayness, professing its spiritual enlightenment versus the benighted oppressive and frankly embarrassing history of the Church, all while bravely facing the thunderous applause.

  • Zippy says:

    Whatever else this may be in fact, it certainly looks very much like a big “Look, Squirrel!!!” orchestrated by the Lavender Mafia, reacting to the terrifying encroachment of sunlight. I daresay there may be nontrivial levels of self-interest involved in a sudden full court press for more lenient secular criminal sentencing.

  • Larry,

    You missed my point. You and I all know it doesn’t ACTUALLY say that. But it isn’t addressed to us. It is addressed to everyone else, everyone else who reads it and reads the normal meaning of the words into the new wording.

    It is designed to make it look to most of the world that the teaching was changed while claiming it wasn’t ACTUALLY changed.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Malcolmthecynic, please reread the last paragraph of my 12:35 PM post. You are agreeing with me in different words. (I would not say “normal meaning of the words” in context, but “normal meaning of the headlines”. Sadly, it seems most people do not read beyond the headlines.)

    Our job as papal Catholics is to obey, and no longer politically support the death penalty. But I would like to send a message to Pope Francis: When are you going to take on a REAL opponent, like usury, the greatest cause of economic despair among the poor? Is your use of ambiguous headlines motivated by a mere love of worldly applause? Is it time for some prophetic heavy lifting?

  • Marissa says:

    Most of the world doesn’t have the comparatively safe and “humane” prisons of the West. I would even say the conditions in western prisons that turn a blind eye to repeated acts of sodomy and rape are worse than death, but what do I know. Why is the Church so west-centric regarding this issue.

  • I was responding to this:

    Please, malcomthecynic and all, read the link I gave to get the real details of what the Pope said, which is NOT “she used to be just wrong.”

    In any case I suggest “By Man Shall his Blood be Shed”. I don’t believe our reactions to Francis’s words are that simple.

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:

    Hidebound rule-followers and promethean neopelagians might have to worry about those sorts of questions. But the one subject upon which Pope Francis has been crystal clear is what he thinks of people who do what they are told rather than making a mess.

  • TomD says:

    “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!”

    Mousehole it is – can we honestly say we deserve better?

    Obedience to authority isn’t some guarantee of good authority, but simply a guarantee of good obedience.

    And we’re not to put God to the test, but to beg that He does not put us to the test, a much more reasonable response to qualms over leadership.

    The public was tested when Christ instituted the Eucharist, but his Apostles also had to be tested, so that they could see that they would fail without Him (even Peter!).

  • Wood says:

    TomD,

    Your comment represents how I have been trying to handle much of the current Church talk. But it is challenging since so many – my own loved ones for instance – who are scandalized by recent Catholic events are outside the Church. It is a horrible thing to wonder if a pope is making that narrow gate even more narrow than it could be otherwise.

  • Aidan C says:

    I also have no idea what the Holy Father means when he speaks of modern prison systems as “humane”. Is this a statement that modern prisons are, in fact, humane, therefore obviating the need for the death penalty? I seem to recall Zippy saying, way back in the early oughts, that the Magisterium has no special charism for being correct in its prudential judgments, and that particular judgment seems insane to me.

    On the other hand, the Holy Father could be saying that, *when* there are, in fact, humane detention systems, *then* the death penalty is inadmissible. If that is his intended meaning, there are loads of other questions that would have to be answered: what constitutes a humane prison system, can such a thing even exist, and how can the faithful more accurately judge these things? As a judge, could I assume that it’s permissible for me to sentence a murderer to death, on the grounds that we’re one of the poor benighted societies without humane systems of detention? I’ll willingly obey if the Pope issues a “non expedit” in regard to executions, but the statement in the catechism seems far more ambiguous even than that.

    Finally, I note with pleasure that the Pope has *not* forbidden whipping under his reign. Perhaps we can all agree on repeated public floggings, together with austere penitential practices, as the proper, currently-permitted punishment for clerics who commit sexual abuse.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    On the other hand, the Holy Father could be saying that, *when* there are, in fact, humane detention systems, *then* the death penalty is inadmissible. If that is his intended meaning, there are loads of other questions that would have to be answered: what constitutes a humane prison system, can such a thing even exist, and how can the faithful more accurately judge these things?

    One simple metric, which I offer not for its truth but rather to illustrate the, ah, difficulty (not to say absurdity) of the situation could be, “a humane detention system does not lock other people together with murderers,” but, “also, solitary confinement is a barbarism not to be inflicted,” thus requiring, “the humane and speedy execution of all those convicted of murder or other similar heinous crimes will be carried out in order to protect detainees from the deleterious effects of their company.”

  • vetdoctor says:

    Can somebody help me? In this context what does “inadmissible” mean? Is it simply being used as a stand in for “impermissible” it just seems to be an odd word choice.

  • Zippy says:

    “Inadmissible” is a term used when a Jesuit who despises the very concept of intrinsic evil really wants to characterize a particular kind of behavior as intrinsically evil.

    Relevant:

  • bob sykes says:

    Francis is a heretic in the grand tradition of the Borgias and Medicis. The Church has survived many bad, heretical popes, but it is unlikely to survive Vatican II and the homosexual/pedophile hierarchy it produced.

    The only real Christians today are the Eastern Orthodox, and even they are under siege.

    PS. exCatholic, exChristian, deist at best.

  • Niiiidriveevof says:

    @Larry. Slavery is just, usury is unjust, and the death penalty is just. ALL of the modernist’s examples in this category are invalid, because the original doctrine binds, and the popular modern belief is false. Morality does not evolve in any respect, and to hold otherwise is heresy.

  • Mike T says:

    Most of the world doesn’t have the comparatively safe and “humane” prisons of the West. I would even say the conditions in western prisons that turn a blind eye to repeated acts of sodomy and rape are worse than death, but what do I know. Why is the Church so west-centric regarding this issue.

    When you turn a blind eye toward the reality of what prison is, it’s easy to drone on and on about human dignity while ignoring the basic truth that you’re locking people of varying degrees of depravity into a big confined space, with only moderate crowd control capabilities and hoping the situation never gets out of control.

  • Reginald McWhorter says:

    Okay, I think I may have misunderstood your first post that I commented on.

  • Mike T says:

    Well, the easiest way for conservative Catholics to back the Pope into the corner on this one would for Catholic leaders with balls like Orban and the new regime in Poland to authorize the death penalty for abuses against children and start wielding them against the RCC.

    What’s the Pope going to do? Put the Lord to the test by trying to excommunicate a political official who finally stood up and said “enough!” to the rampant abuse? Good luck with that, our Lord might have said a thing or two about millstones, necks and bodies of water on that subject.

  • Professor Q says:

    Between this and his deafening silence on the emerging sordid details of what his “staff” have been up to in the United States, Pope Francis’ fall from grace seems both imminent and precipitous. I wonder if TIME magazine will revoke their “Man of the Year” Award now?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a sedevacantist. But self-defeating behaviour to this extent is seldom seen even among the mentally ill or substance-dependent.

  • pilgrim says:

    LarryDickson says I do not think we are allowed to vote for the death penalty (in a referendum, for instance) while this ruling holds.

    And: Our job as papal Catholics is to obey, and no longer politically support the death penalty.

    By no means. Larry has missed several important details of the new CCC language. Let me repeat the critical statement:

    Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

    There is no “law” or “command” in that. The change is in the CCC, not in Canon Law. The Pope has not changed any law or juridical demand of the Church in issuing this declaration. The form of his act is as a teaching, not as a command.

    To the extent that Francis’s “inadmissible because…” means anything at all, rather than being just words strung together, it is either a set of silly, trite words (roughly meaning the equivalent of “I consider it to be nasty” [read James Chastek’s take], leaving plenty of room for capital punishment to be allowable in the right situations), or it is just plain false as in contradiction to Church teaching. We don’t have to “obey” a teaching of the Church, we have to conform our minds to it; but we don’t have to conform our minds to a declaration by a pope that means something in contradiction to infallible past Church teaching.

  • Mike T says:

    I bet you’d find a strong correlation between Catholic officials who oppose the death penalty and Catholic officials who would deserve it if their conduct were brought before the state.

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